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Beauty Contest: 1922

"Washington Tidal Basin Beauty Contest -- August 5, 1922." Misses Eva Fridell, 17, and Anna Niebel. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

"Washington Tidal Basin Beauty Contest -- August 5, 1922." Misses Eva Fridell, 17, and Anna Niebel. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


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I have been trying to picture what a rubber bathing suit would be like, and it sounds miserable, but so does a wool bathing suit, like Ms. Fridell is wearing!

In color

... and if you want to see how I think it looked in colour:

Orthochromatic Film

Panchromatic film was not invented until the thirties and was first used for the movies. Othochromatic film is most sensitive to blue light. That's why the silent films have such high contrast and the mid 30s and later "talkies" look so much different with their extensive grey tones. Panchromatic film did not get wide use until almost WWII.

[This was photographed on a glass plate, not film. Panchromatic emulsion for plates first became available in the early 1900s, though they did not come into common usage until the 1920s. Kodak released their first panchromatic film stock in 1913, though it was intended for use in additive-color motion-picture photography. Their regular panchromatic film came in 1922; the first feature film to be shot entirely with it was that year's The Headless Horseman. - tterrace]

I know, I should have said emulsion. Othochromatic film or emulsion was not in general use until WWII. Even Weston used Orthochromic film in a box camera for his photos. What you see is mostly his darkroom work when you view his photographs.


This is interesting for colourisers. The article states that Miss Fridell had a yellow suit with black trimmings. In monochrome the yellow appears quite dark - a common feature (see the picture I colourised of Civil War veterans a while back). It's easy to assume that yellow in black and white looks pale - but it isn't always so. And this is an excellent example.

A Girl With Curls

Washington Post, August 6, 1922.


Judges Rule None in Tidal Basin
Contest Excelled Miss Fridell
In Pulchritude.


Miss Niebel Again Awarded First
Honors for Best Bathing Suit
Shown at Beach.

        The old-fashioned titian-haired beauty, without the modern make-up, returned to popularity yesterday by winning the fourth annual beauty contest at the Tidal Basin. A girl with curls, of athletic type and wearing the normal style of bathing suit, Miss Eva Fridell, a 17-year-old Business High school student, took the capital prize, a large silver loving cup. She wore a yellow bathing suit with narrow black stripes around it. Not only is she a regular patron of the beach, but one of the expert divers and swimmers.

        Miss Fridell, whose complexion needed no paint or powder, quickly caught the eye of the judges, Al. J. Frey, Isaac Gans and Arthur Leslie Smith. The winner lives with her parents at 611 Ninth street northeast.

Going Back to High School.

        Last spring she graduated from a two-year course at Business High school, but expects to return in the fall to complete a four-year course.

        The winner of the style show at the beach a few months ago, Miss Anna Niebel, of 1370 Harvard street northwest, again came out as the winner of the best costume for beauty, design and durability. Miss Niebel was awarded a silver loving cup for the suit she wore, which was all blue rubber, with several white stripes at intervals.

        Second prize for the beauty was awarded to Miss Gay Gately, of 1402 Massachusetts avenue southeast. Miss Iola Swinnerton, of 3125 Mount Pleasant street northwest, was awarded second prize for costumes. Both were given engraved gold medals.

Nine Chosen From Sixty.

        Of the 60 girls entered in the contest, nine were picked out to appear before the judges. These were Gay Gateley, Norine Fords, Mae Poole Allen, Eva Fridell, Edith and Aileen Bergstrum, Anna Niebel, Dorothy Parker and Iola Swinnerton.

        The participants were paraded before the judges several times before the winners were chosen. Al. J. Frey, chairman of the judges, is a member of Hochchild Kohn & Co. of Baltimore, Md. He was appointed to select the winner of the beauty contest conducted at Palm Beach, Fla., last winter. The winner of this contest received a check for $1,000 as first prize.

They are both winners!

Especially if you look at it full size.
And even more if they were wearing something else.

Oddly, red hair has not always been considered attractive. "Red-headed stepchild" was an insult in more than one way.

[Indeed they were -- Eva won the beauty prize and Anna won for best costume. - Dave]

Left Girl

Hmm, Maogwai Cat has made me reconsider my opinion of the girl on the left. If she had red hair and green eyes (her eyes seem lightly colored in this picture), she would be striking. In this case, the B&W photo giving her such a lifeless coloring does her no favors, along with the angle of her head.

But I still stand by that the styles of the 1920s were a low point.

Political Power

It is amazing how quickly women's bathing attire became so much smaller after they got the vote.

Both of these ladies are lovely.

Although I have to admit that I never knew Joan Cusak was so old.

I'm thinking of why the port side won

Looks like a red haired lady with beautiful freckles and naturally long hair. The very attractive lass with the dark hair has her hair bobbed.

I'm sure the judges considered that no real lady would bob their hair.

I prefer both.

Our beauty on the left

has got the "babyface knees" almost perfect


I've often had the thought that the 1970s had the worst style and taste in American history, but nah. Nothing will ever beat the 1920s.

I Wonder

If anybody else showed up for the contest. The one on the right is OK, but the one on the left looks, um, rather plain (I'm trying to be polite!)


Wow. There's just something enchanting about the women in the 1920s-era beauty contest photos you post. Maybe it's because they were so naturally beautiful without all the beauty aids and plastic surgery women have access to today.

Thelma and Louise

Seems like the one on the left probably wrestled that cup away from somebody. And the one on the right looks like she's a street brawler. Ah yes, leave it to Shorpy to find the first two lady wrastlers and foist them on us as beauty queens!

If they were the winners,

what did the losers look like. The one on the right looks particularly sinister, I certainly wouldn't like to meet her on a dark night!

Looks like the wrong one won

assuming that size, in silver cups, matters. The one on the right is a beauty.

We've seen these two before:

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